By: Jane Tewson
As you walk into the beautiful, welcoming house which is hidden down a tiny alley you instantly feel the love and support of the Mirabel Foundation. Tibetan bells dangle from the front door and even the offices have dreamy names of far off places such as: New York, Jamaica, London Bridge, Paris, Switzerland, Copenhagen, John O’Groats, The Hague…
There’s not much Jane Rowe hasn’t seen in her years of caring for people, first as a drug and alcohol counsellor, and now in her current position, one she’s held for sixteen years, as founder and face of Mirabel. Parental drug use is one of the major factors of the tens of thousands of children placed in out of home care. “Frequently it’s the children who find their parent dead from an overdose or drug induced suicide. Sometimes they’re too young to raise the alarm and wait until a neighbour or relative discovers them”.
Jane set up Mirabel to help grandparents and other family members care for the children abandoned or left behind after drug addiction has claimed one or both parents…”we might have a baby that’s never been picked up from the maternity ward or dropped off at kindergarten and never collected.” Staggeringly The Mirabel Foundation is currently supporting 1,300 children and has assisted many more over the years and the numbers are arising at an alarming rate - on average 5 new cases a week are referred to Mirabel and we know given the increase in illicit drug use things are only going to get worse especially given the alarming increase of ice use which exposes children to horrendous levels of trauma and violence.
Jane says it’s hard to believe that while foster parents receive some government assistance, grandparents and kinship carers don’t. So Mirabel does what it can to help, with a mere 12% of its funding coming from the government. As Jane puts it:
"If we see a young person in crisis, we’re going to make sure they get immediate and critical help for as long as is needed. So far we have never turned a child away. There’s a window pane in a child’s life and if you can get to them early and help them make sense of their trauma and grief you can turn their life around. There can be no waiting list. When they need help, they need it now. And a constant in their life who they can trust and will be there as they grow. If a child doesn’t have a foundation of belonging, hope and self, which is what we strive to give them, then therapy won’t even touch the sides, there is nothing to build on. These are the most basic principles that every child deserves and needs”.
To drive the point home, former Mirabel young person, 21 year old Heaven talked to me confidently and winningly about her experience of finally finding a place where she belonged; and how even now she still feels like she can call Jane, or one of the other Mirabel workers, if she’s going through a rough patch.
As an outcome of this visit much has been learned and enabled thanks to the support of our generous visitors - to those people THANK YOU.